Her brother’s missing, Paper City burns and a mysterious arsonist, the Red Man stalks the streets and kills everything in its path. He’s after Amber and there’s only one person who can help her get to the bottom of things, Ted E. Bear. This is Bear With Me.
Genre(s): Point & Click Adventure
Developer: Exordium Games
Publisher: Exordium Games
Release Date (Ep 3): October 2017
Played Full Season
Purchase At: Steam
Bear With Me has a wonderful visual style, tone and atmosphere. It blends childhood imaginary friends, plushies come to life with the style of film noir and both humour and pop culture references with a dark plot and psychological undertones. Before I played this episodic adventure game, I wouldn’t have thought possible for this blend to work as well as it does.
Bear With Me opens with Amber Ashcroft receiving news of people escaping Paper City, the place where all her plushies and toys come from. They’re leaving the make-believe yet very real city and using its tunnels to reach the Ashcroft house to warn Amber of the coming of the Red Man, who’s burning the city down and desperately seeking her.
Though they plead with her to lay low, Amber’s not about to let a city fall for her own safety. But she can’t do everything alone, so she steps into her closet and office of Ted E. Bear, a hardboiled detective teddy bear, complete with a crippling addiction to booze, which in this case is carrot juice. They have a history together and though tense at first they quickly fall into old habits, routine and banter.
The relationship between Amber and the people of Paper City, and Ted in particular, are at the core of Bear With Me, and her chemistry with her plushie partner helps not only make the premise believable but it also grounds the characterisation and storytelling in a way that even if you know they’re imaginary friends and not really alive, you will still care about them as if they were. It’s surprising how much something bad happening to a poor defenceless plushie in a video game can make you sad, but that’s exactly what happened for me when the first few Red Man victims popped up and all the way to the end.
Over the course of the Bear With Me season and in my previews of Episode 1 and 2, I mentioned how the game seemed to be showing its hand a bit too much, how it made the plot a bit predictable at time and I expressed my hope that they were just there for misdirection. And though I won’t give details, I’ll just let you know that the last episode of Bear With Me really surprised me. I didn’t see some of the plot elements coming and that is just fantastic and fitting with the noir genre and the themes of the video game.
I could go on at length on the themes explored in Bear With Me but to do so I would have to spoil several elements of the plot. Suffice it to say that the psychological elements of the story are superbly handled, as is the noir elements of its plot. Noir stories often have bittersweet situations for their protagonists, and Bear With Me has plenty of those across its episodes.
While playing the last two episodes, I often found myself complaining about the often heavy-handed approach to humour and references, as I felt the game was simply trying too hard to make me see the funny bits. But what finally dawned on me as I completed the season is how much those moments distract you enough for the dramatic events to hit you with full force. Make no mistake, while there may be plushies here, this is a true Noir story.
Visually, the game has a wonderful paper-like quality to its design and it’s all black and white to help sell the noir vibes, except for those specific instances where you see colour, such as the Red Man and his possessions, which are in bright red. These important points offer an amazing contrast with the bleak noir look of Paper City.
I loved the soundtrack and its moody tunes that not only fit the noir style but also reminded me of classic genre movies such as Chinatown and The Big Sleep. On the right scene, with the right music and some of Ted’s extremely hardboiled lines, you could almost pretend he’s a plushie Phillip Marlowe.
Voice acting is pretty good too, though on episode 3 some of Ted and Amber’s monologues fall a bit flat on the emotional scale. Amber, in particular, has a poignant sequence where the voice acting doesn’t convey the character’s emotions as well as they should.
If there’s anything I would improve on Bear With Me it would be to even out the length of the episodes. The first episode has a decent length for the story’s opening sequences but the second one is over way too soon. The third episode then brings back a sufficiently long episode, one you can truly sink your teeth into, which is necessary to really make the end of the story work as well as it frankly does.
Bear With Me is a wonderful adventure, filled with the unique combination of childhood imagination and friendly plushies and the dark, brooding world of Film Noir.
5/5 – Hell Yes!